The UK and Australia might both be members of the Commonwealth, but their approach to medical cannabis so far could not be more different.
In the UK as of the beginning of the month, the NHS agreed not only to authorize just two cannabis drugs (manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals) but also mandated that those prescribing the same must be specialists.
In Australia, in contrast, GPs have just been given the go-ahead to prescribe.
What a world of difference!
Why Is It So Important To Allow GPs To Prescribe Cannabis?
Doctors everywhere are still resistant to prescribing cannabis and legislation mandating that not only “doctors” but specialty doctors (like neurologists or oncologists) does not help. It creates at least an extra step for patients to obtain a prescription. And adds to the expense of care.
Making patients go to hospitals (as opposed to local clinics) also does not help ease access problems.
In places like New York, for example, this approach is beginning to trickle down in its own way. Community clinics in the Big Apple now do prescribe the drug. However, in Europe, the discussion is still way behind the times.
Australia at least seems to be forging a path only so far seen widely in Israel. Government reimbursed doctors will be able to prescribe the drug.
Why Is This Problem So Difficult In Europe?
Part of the problem is that while European healthcare is “comprehensive,” systems everywhere are bogged down with bureaucratic processes that deliberately slow down changes in care to make sure that they are cost-effective and work.
When it comes to the cannabis conversation, however, this means a fairly radical rethinking of even Euro healthcare provision.
Cannabis patients also tend to defy other chronically ill patients. With cannabis, formerly immobilized or fully disabled patients can more easily function if not better or fully manage their conditions. This also means that patients forced to obtain their drug illegally, can get better, faster and then lobby for change.
In places like Luxembourg and Denmark right now, that also might be on the cusp of changing. In Luxembourg in fact, the government is expanding its medical training program for doctors next year and increasing the budget for doctor training. Other places in Europe are not so progressive – at least at the moment.
Most patients in Europe still obtain their drug the “old fashioned way.” Namely through grey and black market channels.